Getting the Right Travel Insurance

A travel expense that can save your life

When you travel you don't know what could happen. You are of the safety net that is your home country. Travel insurance helps to ease your mind of worry (which helps you enjoy your trip more) and really helps if something unforeseen should happen.

I've gone through nearly every travel insurance company in the world both in research and in actually buying policies. Some are good, some cheap, some plain bad and some actually understand your needs.

Let's start with the something every traveler should know!

Why you really should have travel insurance

Once you leave your home country your own day to day policy probably won't cover you for travel. Some European countries have a European Health Card for European citizens you can apply for that will cover you in public hospitals. It's free and worth getting (check your national governments health website).

For anyone else, or those that would prefer private health care, you'll need coverage. There's a common perception that medical care is cheap overseas. It rarely is. What's more as a foreigner in many countries these days you'll likely be charged a lot more than a local.

Trust me, I've been there. It's more expensive than you might think.

The three most common health claims travelers make abroad

The three most common ailments or accidents people claim when traveling are:

  • Ear infections
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Broken bone (from slipping or falling)

Any of those sound familiar? I've never broken a bone traveling but I've had plenty of ear infections and Gastro issues.

Let's take a look at how much a broken bone could cost you in the following countries to have repaired and treated:

  • USA: Average cost = USD $15,000
  • Spain: Average cost = USD $7,300
  • Singapore: Average cost = USD $7,000
  • Thailand: Average cost = USD $4 000
  • Bali: Average cost = USD $3,000
  • Mexico: Average cost = USD $3,000
  • Nepal: Average cost = USD $3,200

Those are some pretty scary figures eh? And they certainly don't include repatriation should you need to fly home early. That's even more scary as a special seat needs to be secured at the last moment and prices could shoot up to USD $30,000! Ouch.

Then there's the unknown. Have you had your appendix removed? No? Get ready for these scary figures.

If you are traveling in the USA with no insurance and need an appendectomy you could end up paying as much as USD $35,000!

In South East Asia it will certainly be cheaper but it's still going to cost you around $5,000. That's a lot of pocket change. I know, I've had my appendix removed in The Philippines.

My Personal Story

I've had various bumps and scrapes over the past 20 years. Malaria in West Africa, sprained calf in Spain, stitches in Malaysia.

The worst was yet to come.

I started getting pains along my side side. It started getting worse throughout the night. By 4 am I needed a hospital.

I needed a taxi to get to the hospital. The first one had no doctor that could deal with it. The second had a doctor but they were not there. These were public hospitals. Believe me, you might want to avoid them. We went to a private hospital where i was seen to immediately.

I was taken in for an ultrasound, endoscopy and colonoscopy. These alone cost well over USD$1,000. The credit card machines don't issue that much cash.

The tests over with I was told I had an enflamed appendix that they saw through the colonoscopy. I was rushed to ER. The medical staff were all very nice but the hospital administration wanted another USD$1000 deposit before admitting me.

Now, without travel insurance I simply would not have been able to come up with $2000 in 24 hours. And even if I could, I really was in no shape to do so.

I'll spare you the rest of the details, your can read about my surgery here. The cost of the appendectomy was over $5,000. And that's not including post hospital care!

Moral of the story. Having travel insurance is an instant relief both mentally and physically. There's no worrying about paying for bills when you are bent over in pain. There's no being held to random by a hospital how withholds your passport until you pay! Yes, really!

I'll leave my story about getting Malaria in West Africa for next time. But travel insurance covered me in what would have been a very expensive bill!

Travel insurance was created for both peace of mind, financial stability and to insure you receive proper medical treatment.

Honestly speaking, in this day and age:

If you can't afford travel insurance then you can't afford to travel!

What else can travel insurance do?

Aside from covering medical costs travel insurance protects you from missed or delayed flights. Long-haul flights are expensive. A series of short cheap flights are can also mount up. Missed a scheduled flight due to an airline delay? Travel insurance will cover you.

Made the flight but your luggage didn't? It's a nightmare thought that happen far too often. The last thing you need is the added expense of replacing clothes, luggage and expensive gadgets when you arrive in new country. A good travel insurance policy will help you replace your lost items, fast.

Thieves exist everywhere in the world. At the blink of an eye you would have your wallet taken. Or come back to a hotel room and find your expensive laptop has vanished not to mention your iPad or phone. Many travel insurance polices don't cover expensive electronics. My policy with World Nomads lets me add individual items!

Long-Term travel insurance

It's very important to know how long you'll be traveling for. Some travel insurance companies will cover travel up to 1 year. Longer term travel insurance is harder to get.

There are a few companies offering long-term travel insurance of up to 18 months but after that they will not cover you. Be sure to read the small print!

It's also not as easy as simply taking out a new policy. Many companies offering long term travel insurance insist that you have been resident in your home country for 6 months or longer.

World Nomads is one company that does offer long-term travel insurance without such stipulations.

Important Tips about taking out travel insurance

Understand the terms & conditions of travel insurance: Anyone getting travel insurance should  read the terms and conditions of the policy before buying it. Here's an example why.

Let's say you are from the Australia and just arrived in Brazil after one year of travel. Your current policy runs out and you buy a new policy from the internet. They will take your money. Two months later you break your leg. You claim. They say you are not covered. In the terms and conditions it says you must be resident at home for over a year before travelling.

Make sure you qualify for travel insurance:

A huge pitfall in many travel insurance policies is residence. A lot of the insurance companies insist you are living in a country for 6 months before you are covered, they will take your money either way. Here's an example of what to look out for in the policy.

"Residence limits: You must have lived in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland for at least six of the last 12 months before you bought your policy."

It can take a long time and a lot of searching to find the right policy. But it's important you do find the right one that will work! Paying high rates, having an accident or making a claim only to find out you are not covered is not good.

Keep copies of everything for insurance claims

Once you buy the policy. Print it out, photocopy one for your luggage, and one for your person. Scan in the policy and email it to yourself. Give your family the details too. All this will only take an hour, but if the need arises it can save you a lot of trouble.

Lastly if you have any particular items of value, make sure you have copies of their proof of purchase. Many travel insurance companies will not pay out for specific items unless you can prove their value.

Understand the terms & conditions of travel insurance: I strongly advise anyone getting travel insurance to read the terms

Types of Travel Insurance

Even before this 10+ year journey I used travel insurance for short trips. I have used several companies at various stages but the small print and customer service always was always a priority.

Short and long-term polices are made specifically with travelers in mind. I also make sure the company is dedicated to travel insurance and not some giant generic conglomerate offering cheap online deals.

Travel insuraance should offer great travel specific additions to polices like cover for your gadgets, or adventure sports and trekking.

Accidents do happen. It's hard to be prepared for them when you are traveling. Finding the right travel insurance company can be your safety net for only a few dollars a day.

7 things travellers should check before purchasing a travel insurance policy

  1. Who can buy it? Travel Insurance is usually only availble to residents of specific countries. Check to make sure your country is listed.
  2. How to make a claim? Some insurance companies will only pay out after you have returned home. Others expect you to pay an excess first and they will then pay a bill directly with the organisation involved.
  3. Can you extend your cover when traveling? Yes! If you are on an open trip, then you may want to extend it. Some policies can't be extended, other can.
  4. Is the company well known? LThere are many short-term pop-up insurance websites online. Having a reputable company is always a good idea.
  5. Currently traveling and need a new policy?  Can I get travel insurance? Similar with extending a policity. Is your current policty has expired and you need a new one when already traveling make sure you are covered!
  6. Get coverage for different activities Not all polices cover things like wall climbing, motorcycles etc. Make sure your policty covers everything you are doing. 
  7. Where can I buy it? Many companies only offer online purchases these days. Again, make sure the company is reputable. 

Get a quote today!


World Nomads offers travel insurance for independent travelers and intrepid families.

TrueTraveller (UK/Europe)

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World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.